Knowledge building: idea-centered drawing and writing to advance community knowledge

Yong Cheng Gan, Huang Yao Hong, Bodong Chen, Marlene Scardamalia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This study explores the dynamic, interactive nature of digital drawings and writing in a knowledge building community in which students used a multimedia online environment—Knowledge Forum—to represent and advance ideas in the field of optics. The research employs a mixed-methods case study to collect and analyze multimedia notes created by 22 fourth-grade students. Graphical notes—notes containing drawings—included more idea units and more sophisticated ideas than non-graphical notes. Quality of drawing also correlated with idea improvement in Knowledge Forum notes, with ratings of idea improvement based on conceptual understanding of optics. Overall, findings revealed significant advantages of online drawing for Grade 4 students, with case-study analysis revealing the many ways in which graphics complement writing and contribute to knowledge building.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2423-2449
Number of pages27
JournalEducational Technology Research and Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada, Protocol # 00032092 (Digitally-mediated group knowledge processes to enhance individual achievement in literacy and numeracy) and by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan, # MOST107-2511-H-004-004-MY3/109-2511-H-004-002-MY3. We owe special thanks to the students and their teacher, Richard Messina, for insights, accomplishments, and research opportunities that enabled this work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, Association for Educational Communications and Technology.


  • Digital writing
  • Drawing
  • Elementary education
  • Graphical literacy
  • Graphics
  • Idea-centered writing
  • Knowledge Building
  • Knowledge Forum
  • Learning communities
  • Multimedia


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